Lots of meetings, but no commitments for Revelstoke at UBCM convention

Revelstoke city officials lobby province for help with Conservation Office, vacation rentals, roundabout and more at UBCM

Community

Vacation rentals, the Conservation Officer Service, the roundabout and the future of the Resort Municipality Infrastructure program were at the forefront for Revelstoke during the annual conference of the Union of BC Municipalities last week, says Mayor Mark McKee.

“I had quite a few meetings talking about the Resort Municipality Initiative,” said McKee while on his way back from the conference on Friday. “That program is slated to be finished in 2017 and there’s been lots of meetings and lots of meetings with ministers to encourage them to keep that program going because it’s a huge program for Revelstoke.”

The program has helped fund numerous infrastructure projects in Revelstoke, from the Nordic ski lodge at Mount Macpherson to dirt bike trails on Frisby Ridge to the new Visitor Information Centre. Last month, the government announced Revelstoke was receiving another $583,057 from the program, bringing the total amount it has received to $4.6 million since 2008. As a whole, the program provides $10.5 million each year to 14 resort communities.

While a recent government news release heralded the impact of the program, it’s future is uncertain beyond next year.

“It’s not just Revelstoke where it’s making a huge difference,” said McKee. “I think everybody that I was sitting down with sees the importance of the program and it’s just a matter of getting the government keeping it going.”

McKee said he met with the Ministry of Transportation to discuss funding for the roundabout. The province hasn’t committed any money yet, but McKee said he is still hoping they will step up to the plate. As reported in the past, the projected is expected to cost $600,000 more than budgeted and the city hopes the province will cover a most, if not all, of that.

“I’m having conversations with the minister and we’ll see how it goes,” said McKee. “I have my fingers crossed and I’m hoping it’s going to be a positive outcome for us.”

The city also held meetings with the Conservation Officer Service to once again discuss bringing a CO back to Revelstoke. The community has been without one for almost three years now. On this topic, McKee said he wasn’t optimistic.

“I can tell you, the whole bear issue this year, the government and the COs, they understand,” said McKee. “I think we’re going to see the Conservation Office taking a lot more proactive role in helping us manage the community and the bear attractants and getting the word out the community has to be vigilant all the time.”

The biggest topic at the convention was vacation rentals an issue communities of every size are facing globally. The big concern is the rapid growth of the short-term rental market impacts the availability of long-term rental housing and prices people out of the market or prevents them from finding a place to live.

At the convention, AirBnB public policy manager Alex Dagg said the company was willing to collect and remit taxes to municipalities and the province.

“We want to be good community partners,” Dagg said, noting Airbnb already collects and remits taxes in 200 U.S. cities. “We have no problem to do that here as well.”

The City of Revelstoke recently moved to tighten up its vacation rental policy, capping them at 125 rooms in existing residential neighbourhoods, and directing bylaw enforcement to crack down on illegal rentals.

“What was kind of interesting is a lot of communities are looking to Revelstoke and what we’re doing,” said McKee.

“Some of them are taking exactly what we’re doing and implementing it in their communities,” he added, without naming names.

Many other issues came up at the conference, from the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries in some cities to regulating Uber to policing costs.

And, with a provincial election coming in the spring, a new $450.1 million fund for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades was announced. In this case, the federal government is providing up to half the funding and the province one third, leaving cities to pick up the rest of the cost of any projects.

“It’s nice to see the purse strings of the province are doing well and they’re loosening them to invest that money back into communities,” said McKee.

With files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press

 

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